Xinyi Cheng, I surrender . . . , 2018, oil on linen, 55 × 45".

Xinyi Cheng, I surrender . . . , 2018, oil on linen, 55 × 45".

Xinyi Cheng

Antenna Space 天线空间

“I told him I was a painter who’s fascinated by emotions, desires and power dynamics.” So writes Xinyi Cheng in recounting her first acquaintance and ensuing friendship with Christiaan, a gay man, upon moving to the Netherlands in 2016. Narrated in a matter-of-fact tone, the story served as the press release of her first solo exhibition in China, “Harnessing the Power of Wind.”

Most of the works on view—paintings and a photographic still life—were produced during Cheng’s two-year residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. In focusing her attention on the life of a gay European man, Cheng assumed a double risk: Homosexuality remains taboo in China, her home country, while in a Western context her identity as a straight woman could expose her to accusations of cultural appropriation. Luckily, Cheng’s works eschew anything like a reverse exoticization, instead uncovering the subtle

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